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Practical Applications

Does anybody remember those big apple-green lapel pins, “I am a simple, Bible-believing Christian feminist?” I still have mine in my jewelry drawer, a seventies souvenir. If I wore it today on my Christian college campus, I suspect my fellow academics would look askance at such a retrograde claim, labeling “feminist” as yesterday’s word, a matter of beating a dead horse. If I wore it to my Episcopal church, my fellow congregants would be surprised, because to them, “Bible-believing” means anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-marriage equality. In her book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg tells of being evasive in her early career when asked if she was a feminist. Today, as COO of Facebook and a millionaire many times ov... Read more
Who are you? Before you read any further, stop and write down about 5 words or phrases that describe who you are. Finished?    Read on! Social psychologists tell us that (in the United States, anyway) when asked for self-descriptors, men tend to select words or phrases that show their independence from others, for instance the abilities or attributes that make them unique. They might list things like lawyer, jogger, guitarist, or someone with a great sense of humor. Women, they tell us, tend to describe themselves with words or phrases that show their relationship to others. They often list words such as wife, mother, friend, or choir member. Not surprising, I suppose, given that women are often socialized to think in terms of their contributions to relationships a... Read more
Two weeks ago, John began studying the revolution in relational thinking that Paul presents in Colossians 3. Last week, he considered God’s call to mutual relationships. This week, John will explore relationships through the lens of service and discipleship. Service This command of mutuality leads us to a second feature that we find in this passage. Paul’s emphasis throughout his instructions is not on authority in relationships or on rights, but on serving. He does not give permission to a husband to go to his wife and tell her, “It’s your duty to submit to me,” or to parents to demand obedience from their children. Instead, he tells husbands to love their wives. The term he uses is agapao, that wonderful word denoting a love that gives itself... Read more
When our daughter and son were born, my husband and I tried to encourage gender equality through the books and TV programs to which they were exposed.  While it was difficult at times, I was stunned when I realized that The Wizard of Oz runs counter to all of the gendered expectations other children’s stories seem to promote. Think about it: every person in the Wizard of Oz who has any power at all is female. 1)      Dorothy is the undisputed leader of an unlikely male trio: the lion, the tin man, and the scarecrow. 2)      The two witches have power respected by male and female characters alike: one used for good, one for evil. 3)      While we are led to believe throughout that the Wizard (a... Read more
The summer issue of Mutuality is out the door! This issue’s “join the conversation” article focuses on gender stereotypes in marriage, cast in the light of Proverbs 31. Daniel Fan talks about his experience as a man who has lately found his own story strikingly similar to the Proverbs 31 woman. Proverbs 31 Man: Walking in the footsteps of the Proverbs 31 woman… as a man Maybe the biblical character you best connect with is Daniel in the lion’s den, or Mary when the stone was rolled away. Sometimes we connect with the well-known figures we would have chosen for ourselves. But sometimes Creator appoints us to walk in the company of stranger biblical fellows—companions we would not have chosen, but who enrich our lives even so. This is t... Read more
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth…” This prayer challenges us to live into the gospel and make it real for our own day. In the case of domestic violence, this may mean finding ways that local churches and people of faith can do something that will gently and persistently shape the way members view and respond to issues of intimate partner abuse, whether it be in the community or inside the house of faith. Here is a list of practical immediate ways to make your church a “Safe House.” Always assume that there are persons in your church who have experienced or are experiencing abuse. Be aware of subtle messages in your church that promote the assumption that “everyone here is okay and every marriage and relationship is healthy.... Read more
"Do something outside the norms of your own gender.” Those were the instructions for students beginning a gender studies course at the small liberal arts college where I teach. “Notice the reactions of those around you, ” I added. I was unprepared for the creative ways my students completed this assignment. One female student parked in the lot of a local department store, opened the hood, and began looking for “the problem.” She assured each would-be helper that while she appreciated their offers she had it under control. Most believed her; one argued the point. One male student paid for his purchases at a local store out of the purse he was carrying, handing the cashier the money with perfectly polished fingernails. The cashier refused to make e... Read more
"I, personally, have no problem with women being leaders in our church, but the congregation isn't ready for it yet," one pastor explained. Congregational change comes slowly. Church leaders need wisdom in choosing which changes to promote and the best time to implement those changes. However, it is too easy for a shepherd afraid of controversy to hide behind the flock rather than lead it. A church's lack of readiness to empower all of its members is not an excuse to do nothing. It is a call to action. To do nothing suggests that a leader may lack genuine interest in bringing women into leadership as full members of the Body of Christ. There are a great many things that a church leader can do to prepare God's people to reach their full potential, even if they ar... Read more
Have you ever noticed how every day language is used to manipulate and shape rather than describe reality? Here is one example. I used to swim several mornings a week, and as I walked from the locker room to the swimming pool, I encountered a large candy machine along the way. It wasn’t enough to have to walk around this temptation in an effort to gain physical exercise. But, to make matters worse the candy machine was lit up with huge words that read “Nutritious Food.” Of course, the machine did not dispense food but candy, and it was far from nutritious! The language used to sell candy was deceptive and harmful. I once complained, but realized that my objection was less persuasive than the profit from candy sales. The stewardship we give words is a moral responsibili... Read more

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